Oregon lawmakers to hear bill on rent control, among others in legislative session

Oregon State Capitol. (KATU Photo)

Oregon's 160-day legislative session begins Tuesday. Lawmakers are expected to take up a wide variety of issues, including a potentially groundbreaking renters' rights and rent control bill.

Largely sponsored by Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Tina Kotek, Senate Bill 608 caps yearly rental increases and tightens eviction rules.

  • Limits rent increases for residential tenancies to one per year and limits maximum annual rent increase to seven percent above annual change in consumer price index.
  • Prohibits landlord from terminating month-to-month tenancy without cause after 12 months of occupancy. Provides exception for certain tenancies on building or lot used by landlord as residence.
  • Allows landlord to terminate tenancy with 90 days’ written notice and payment of one month’s rent under certain conditions. Exempts landlord managing four or fewer units from payment of one month’s rent.
  • Provides that fixed term tenancy becomes month-to-month tenancy upon ending date if not renewed or terminated. Allows landlord to not renew fixed term tenancy if tenant receives three lease violation warnings within 12 months during term and landlord gives 90 days’ notice.

The measure received support from two major housing groups, Stable Homes for Oregon Families and the Oregon Housing Alliance, the state's largest housing coalition.

Alison McIntosh of Oregon Housing Alliance says the rent stabilization is desperately needed in communities across the state, especially in Medford, Eugene and Salem.

"We need Legislature to pass something," McIntosh told KATU. "We need protections for tenants across the state."

The Portland-area Renters Association told KATU it is neutral on the measure.

"I don't like to see any limits, not a fan of it, but knowing that there will have to be something to be put in place, we're not completely against it," Christian Bryant, the chapter's president said. "Not all landlords have $1 million in the bank."

Bryant says rent control that's too stiff could deter investment and increase rental rates for newer apartments, knowing they are limited in how much they can raise rents.

The Oregon Association of Realtors takes a firmer stance, not only opposing rent control measures, but saying the new eviction requirements opens significant new legal exposure for landlords.

Housing activist Margot Black is a strong critic of SB 608, saying it doesn't go far enough.

"It is insulting for it to be called rent stabilization," Black told KATU. "Profit stabilization, maybe, anti-price gouging, maybe."

Measured today, Black said a landlord could raise a tenant's rent by approximately 10 percent, seven percent over inflation, which is just over 3 percent.

"I think if we do stabilize rent control, it needs to be like three, four, five percent," Black said.

Black also added that she believes many landlords will evict renters prior to the one-year mark of someone's tenancy. SB 608 prohibits landlords from terminating month-to-month tenancy without cause after 12 months of occupancy.

"Folks who are already vulnerable to displacement, they’re going to have to move every single year," Black said. "People that are most vulnerable to no-cause evictions are people who are minorities, people of color, people with disabilities, the elderly, single moms."

According to KATU's news partners at Willamette Week, the bill only applies to buildings that have stood for 15 years or more.

Because housing is declared an emergency, SB 608 would be effective on passage.

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